23 Movies Like The Last Samurai (2003) On Rokuchannel

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This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, the beauty of a labor of love, obsession, and the relationship between father and son. Truly a must-watch.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Daisuke Nakazama, David Gelb, Hachiro Mizutani, Harutaki Takahashi, Jiro Ono, Masuhiro Yamamoto, Yoshikazu Ono

Director: David Gelb

Rating: PG

Whether graffiti is art or not is the question guiding this fascinating documentary about the spray can-wielding artists of ‘80s New York. Wherever you come down in the debate — though this presents compelling arguments that graffiti is a medium worthy of critical attention — you’ll undoubtedly come away with a reverence for the kids who went hard with the paint on NYC’s walls and subway cars. Candid interviews with these young pioneers (whose cultural contributions are now less in contention) reveal that they’re not simply rebelling for rebellion’s sake: they’re largely motivated by a desire to make their mark on their beloved city — to stand out and have their work seen by the millions riding the subway every day.

The doc largely embeds itself with the artists, but it also interviews the “other side”: then-mayor Ed Koch and police officers, who were ramping up their aggressive “war on graffiti” campaign during filming. It’s clear that these interviewees have little interest in understanding what drives the kids to create their murals — a lack of curiosity that Style Wars blessedly counters. Not just a thoughtful contribution to its period and a fascinating time capsule, but also a thought-provoking reminder that art is art, whether it's made outside of the system or not.

Genre: Documentary, Music, TV Movie

Actor: Cap, Daze, Dondi, Ed Koch, Eric Haze, Gene Anthony Ray, Irene Cara, Kase 2, Rammellzee

Director: Tony Silver

, 2018

1985, a movie from 2018, was made like it was filmed during the year it’s about: it’s shot on gorgeous black-and-white Super 16mm film.

Not that it would be needed, but this minimalist setting puts a spotlight on the ensemble cast of this well-acted drama based on an award-winning short film.

In particular, the central one by Cory Michael Smith (Gotham, Camp X-Ray). He plays Adrian, a man visiting his conservative family in Texas from New York, so gently at times and explosively at others, it’s a sight to behold.

Adrian, estranged from his family for three years, visits them to find a way to tell them that he has AIDS.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aidan Langford, Bill Heck, Bryan Massey, Cory Michael Smith, Jamie Chung, Michael Chiklis, Ryan Piers Williams, Tina Parker, Virginia Madsen

Director: Yen Tan

Rating: Not Rated

A wacky viral story — the kind that gets played for laughs at the end of news broadcasts — gets uncommonly deep consideration in this documentary gem. That’s not to say that Finders Keepers ignores the surreal comedy of the situation that John Wood and Shannon Whisnant, two star-crossed North Carolina men, found themselves in in 2007: battling over the custody rights of John’s mummified amputated leg. The humor in this bizarre tale and all the myriad eccentricities of its real-life characters is never left untapped, but to simply focus on that would add nothing new to the way the story had been told thus far. 

Unlike the many clips from news segments and reality TV that we see in the film, Finders Keepers instead looks beyond the low-hanging fruit and finds deep pathos simmering under the surface of this wacky tale. What emerges is a complex, often tragic, and very American picture of the way traumas shape our lives, the addictive pull of drugs and attention, and fate’s habit of twisting nightmares into blessings and vice versa. It’s the kind of film that makes you wonder how many other unexpectedly poignant stories have been short-changed by our impulse to be flippant.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: John Wood, Shannon Whisnant

Director: Bryan Carberry, J. Clay Tweel

Rating: R

The highly unusual story of this documentary starts with Kevin Hearn, a member of the band Barenaked Ladies, realizing that his painting by famous Canadian Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau is a fake. When he sues the collector he bought it from, he starts a series of inquiries that unravel a story that gets progressively darker: drug dealing, organized crime, addiction, sexual abuse, and completely crazy characters (reminiscent of Tiger King).

Behind all of that, There Are No Fakes is about the exploitation not only of Indigenous art but of Indigenous people in Canada in general.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Kevin Hearn

Director: Jamie Kastner

This small-scale but incredibly fun 88-minute drama from 2003 is about a group of Latino teenagers who grow up in New York’s Lower East Side.

Victor lives with his eccentric grandmother, which sometimes gets in the way of him pursuing Judy, his dream girl.

The actor who plays Victor is called Victor Rasuk, the one who plays Judy is called Judy Marte. This is a film so personal that both main characters needed to be named after the actors who play them.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Donna Maldonado, Jeff Knite, Joe Rosario, Judy Marte, Kevin Rivera, Melonie Diaz, Silvestre Rasuk, Victor Rasuk, Wilfree Vasquez

Director: Peter Sollett

Rating: R

2005 was a banner year for British period dramas, apparently: first, there was Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (still arguably the genre’s crowning achievement), and then came Under the Greenwood Tree, a delightful made-for-Christmas-TV romance loosely based on the eponymous Thomas Hardy novel. Anyone familiar with the author’s typically tragedy-tinged stories — think Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd — will find themselves surprised by the light, pleasant tone of this one, in which the closest anyone gets to violent revenge is sabotaging a church organ by pouring a flagon of cider into it.

The romance here is threefold: when Keeley Hawes’ spinster schoolteacher Fancy Day (genuinely her name) arrives in an English village, she ignites a rivalry between wealthy farmer Shiner (Steve Pemberton), haughty clergyman Parson Maybold (Ben Miles), and James Murray’s die-hard romantic Dick Dewy (again: the names in this are a choice). The trio’s simultaneous attempted courting of Fancy doubles as both the entertaining will-she-won’t-she stuff of romantic dramas and a conduit through which the movie explores the class dynamics in England during the 19th century. It’s this deft intertwining of satisfying romantic period drama tropes with genuine reflection on the historical period itself — all while remaining lighthearted — that makes this underseen adaptation worth watching.

Genre: Drama, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Ben Miles, James Murray, Keeley Hawes, Richard Leaf, Steve Pemberton, Terry Mortimer, Tom Georgeson, Tony Haygarth

Director: Nicholas Laughland

For the longest time, American media coverage was skewed to justify the presence of US forces in Arab states. Control Room unveils that bias by following Al Jazeera at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. One of the biggest Arab media outlets at the time, Al Jazeera dared to cover both sides of the war, but by doing so put a target on its back. It was vilified by both the US government, which called it an Osama mouthpiece and the Arab world, which called it a Bush ally. 

Control Room shows the difficulty (if not sheer impossibility) of achieving journalistic balance, objectivity, and integrity. Through interviews with Al Jazeera reporters and US military officers, we witness how lines are blurred, loyalties are tested, and purpose is shifted in a state of war. A seminal work on media bias and press control, Control Room is vital and enlightening, a must-watch to understand the inner workings of the fourth estate. 

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Hassan Ibrahim, Josh Rushing

Director: Jehane Noujaim

When he’s accepted into the prestigious Islamic university Al-Azhar, fisherman’s son Adam (Tawfeek Barhom) gets an eye-opening education — but not the kind he expected. A place associated with notions of purity is imagined as a hotbed of hypocrisy and corruption here, as naive young Adam finds himself unwittingly embroiled in a state plot to seize control of Al-Azhar (because, as one government official puts it, “We can’t accept having two pharaohs in the land”). Cairo Conspiracy's intricate plot confronts monsters in government and strips away religious leaders’ veneer of divinity as a reminder that they’re merely fallible men. What's more, the film grapples with the knotty mess of politics raging inside the institution’s walls in such a way that even its palatial courtyard feels claustrophobic. Rife with paranoia and subterfuge, Cairo Conspiracy feels utterly unique thanks to this skillful transposing of the shadowy machinations of courtly intrigue dramas and '70s paranoid thrillers into a very contemporary Egyptian setting.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Fares Fares, Jalal Altawil, Makram J. Khoury, Mehdi Dehbi, Mohammad Bakri, Sherwan Haji, Tawfeek Barhom

Director: Tarik Saleh

There isn't a single moment of unnecessarily exaggerated emotion or comedy in this French-Danish animated film, which may keep its world very small compared to its peers, but it portrays everything with arguably more depth and beauty. Long Way North moves with a stately pace, giving it more dramatic heft and allowing us to take in all of the film's painterly surfaces and soft silhouettes. But it's not just the art style that sets the film apart; it also avoids what we expect from a traditional adventure, keeping the most important character beats private and internal. This may make the movie feel a little more distant than it should be, but the feeling that it leaves you with is undeniable—a sense that everything is connected, and those who are lost will always find a way home.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Family

Actor: Audrey Sablé, Boris Rehlinger, Bruno Magne, Christa Théret, Féodor Atkine, Juliette Degenne, Rémi Bichet, Stéphane Pouplard, Thomas Sagols

Director: Rémi Chayé

A quiet documentary that was released to celebrate the British Royal Air Force's centenary, Spitfire tells the story of the famous plane that younger audiences might only recognize from movies like Dunkirk or Darkest Hour. It features gorgeous footage of the last remaining planes in service flying over the British coast, testimonies from pilots who are still alive and a reminder of the key role that this plane once served. It feels like an attempt to capture and archive the importance of the plane, but also of its pilots, who for the most part were young kids with little training, but who, with time, learned valuable lessons from warfare. A must for aviation fans and a great option for anyone looking for a quiet movie to watch with their family (grandparents included). 

Genre: Documentary, History, War

Actor: Charles Dance, Mary Ellis

Director: Ant Palmer, David Fairhead

Rating: TV-PG

Though it's still very much a product of a time of certain jokes that haven't aged well, it's still remarkable how the humor and the satirical edge of this mockumentary has remained so current. As a very-low budget mockumentary of a still-young American hip hop scene, there's so much more effort that goes into these fake songs and music videos than you'd expect. But the film doesn't stop at simply poking fun at the rappers and hip hop artists of the era; the jokes always circle back around to the racism of the time and the self-seriousness of the culture in the music industry. It's a hilarious time capsule with some brutally incisive lines in practically every scene.

Genre: Comedy, Mockumentary, Music

Actor: Barry Shabaka Henley, Deezer D, Devin Kamin, Don Reed, Faizon Love, G. Smokey Campbell, Homeselle Joy, Kasi Lemmons, Larry B. Scott, LaVerne Anderson, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Monique Gabrielle, Penny Johnson Jerald, Rose Jackson, Rusty Cundieff

Director: Rusty Cundieff

It may look like a cheap TV movie, but this quietly affecting story of a lonely grandmother looking for kindness and meaning at a retirement hotel is an absolutely charming watch for you, your parents, and your own grandparents. The stakes are refreshingly low, as the title character's quick friendship with a twentysomething writer helps each of them get through their feelings of being out of place. There's lots of effective, British-style comedy from this small cast of instantly likable actors, and an unexpectedly potent emotional core, making you realize only by the end just how invested you've become in their interactions. As Mrs. Palfrey, Joan Plowright is a wonderful, gentle presence, and her easy chemistry with Rupert Friend is exactly as wholesome as the film needs.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Anna Massey, Clare Higgins, David Webber, Georgina Hale, Joan Plowright, Michael Culkin, Robert Lang, Rupert Friend, Timothy Bateson, Zoë Tapper

Director: Dan Ireland

Structured like a series of vignettes based on the titular American writer's works, this stop motion animated film embraces how playful and bizarre the medium of clay can be, showing us everything from whimsical jumping frogs, to Adam and Eve, to Satan himself. But even if The Adventures of Mark Twain might get too weird even and rough around the edges even for a hardcore animation fan, there's an interesting emotional undercurrent here that deals with unanswerable questions on death and the meaning of life. Thanks to a lively and talented cast of voice actors, this fantastic voyage keeps itself grounded to something tangible and heartfelt, and never gets swept up too far into the clouds.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Chris Ritchie, Dal McKennon, Gary Krug, James Whitmore, John Morrison, Michele Mariana, Will Vinton

Director: Will Vinton

This original comedy-drama is about a young man on the autism spectrum called Luke. Propelled by a scandalous grandpa with no filters, Luke decides that what he needs in his life is to lose his virginity.

His dysfunctional family setting, which includes a mother who left him and a neurotic step-mother, makes his search more difficult but more also pressing. Luke decides he first has to get a job, and with a world that doesn’t expect much from him, his unbreakable determination is a joy to watch.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Al Sapienza, Ann Holloway, Art Hindle, Cary Elwes, Dewshane Williams, Jayne Eastwood, John Boylan, Kenneth Welsh, Kristin Bauer, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Lisa Ryder, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mackenzie Munro, Michael Kinney, Pam Hyatt, Sabryn Rock, Seth Green, Zoë Belkin

Director: Alonso Mayo

Rating: Not Rated